Some underprivileged students in Caddo Parish gathered at the Wal-Mart on Westport Avenue this morning, where they each received brand-new bicycles, courtesy of an anonymous local donor.

The children were chosen by the principals of 10 elementary schools selected by Volunteers for Youth Justice. The students are from Turner, J.S. Clark, Oak Park, Summer Grove, Summerfield, E.B. Williams Stoner Hill, Northside, Creswell, Caddo Heights and Atkins.

"We're working with all of the elementary schools in the parish...with their truancy issues," said Kelli Todd with VYJ. "So we picked the top 10 schools where we see where they may need a little bit extra during the holidays."

The new truancy program is a collaboration among multiple agencies, including VYJ and the Caddo District Attorney's Office. DA James Stewart, Sr., says the program is about keeping kids in school.

"We're dealing with kids K-through-5 and when it's K-through-5, it's not the child, it's the parent. A lot of parents have issues and needs, and we're trying to work with them and make sure they know that somebody's out there trying to help them," Stewart said. "We find parents who don't have uniforms. Friday, we found somebody who didn't have food to eat, and those kind of things."

Stewart says when the kids get an education, they don't end up having issues that will put them through the court system. In addition to making some children's holidays a whole lot brighter, today's event also celebrated the program's success thus far. Stewart says he's hoping to be able to expand it to middle school soon.

The kids who braved the cold for this morning's donation event were all smiles as they posed for photos next to what will soon be their new bicycles.

"We do look for so many opportunities to give, and we do see this as another opportunity and we certainly appreciate it," said Caddo Schools Superintendent Lamar Goree. "There will be more children waking up on Christmas morning with a beautiful, brand-new bike. We thank everyone that played a significant role in this day."

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